Channuka – Excerpt from Contra Brown

  1. 1.    Haggai 2:6 – 9.
  2. “For thus says the Lord of hosts: There will be one more; it is a small one. I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. I will shake the nations and the precious things of all the nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. Mine is the silver and mine is the gold – the word of the Lord of hosts. Great shall be the glory of this house – the latter more so than the former, said the Lord of hosts, and I will grant peace in this place – the word of the Lord of hosts.”

The prophet is encouraging those who returned from the Babylonian exile. They were disappointed with the modest nature of the SecondTemple (2:3, 4, Zechariah 4:10), and this was God’s message of reassurance. God encouraged the people by telling them that this Temple will be filled with glory (vs. 7), a glory that will surpass that of the FirstTemple (vs. 9). This prophecy did not come to pass in its most literal sense. Brown admits as much[xxiii]. Still, Brown contends that in a certain sense the glory of the SecondTemple actually did exceed that of the First and that is because Jesus – who Brown believes is God Himself, visited the SecondTemple but did not visit the FirstTemple.

One problem with this interpretation is the simple fact that God did visit the FirstTemple in an open and obvious way (1Kings 8:11, 2Chronicles 7:1 – 3). All who witnessed that visitation – and the entire nation was present – recognized that the God of Israel had come to dwell in His house. When the people saw Jesus walking in the Temple courtyard (he couldn’t enter the sanctuary itself for he was not a priest), they just saw a man. So which visitation was greater? Or does Brown believe that Jesus is God while God is not God?

The second problem with Brown’s interpretation is that Jesus never came to glorify the Temple. According to Christian theology he actually came to replace the Temple. According to Brown Jesus came to replace both the atonement that was provided through the Temple offerings and the connection to God that the Temple represented[xxiv]. How could the career of Jesus, a man who claimed the glory of the Temple for himself, be considered a glorification of the same Temple?

So what did Haggai mean with this prophecy? The fact that the prophecy was not fulfilled in the most literal sense, lends weight to the explanation[xxv] that this prophecy was conditional on the nation’s full repentance – as was the prophecy of Zechariah (6:15 – see below). When the nation ultimately turns back to God[xxvi], then the glory of the Temple will indeed surpass the glory of the First Temple[xxvii].

If we will insist on a fulfillment of this prophecy during the time of the SecondTemple, we ought to allow the scriptures to tell us how the glory of God was manifest in the Second Temple[xxviii].

The scriptures teach that the purpose of the sanctuary was so that God could dwell in the midst of Israel (Exodus 25:8, 29:45, Ezekiel 37:27), and so that He could meet with Israel there (Exodus 23:17, 29:43, Deuteronomy 16:16). The primary purpose of the Temple was the connection it created between God and His beloved nation.

The Godly spirit which guided the nation during the SecondTemple era was not as dramatic or as openly manifest as was the prophetic spirit that was manifest in the FirstTemple period. But the connection that it created between God and His people ran deeper and was more fully absorbed by the nation. In the context of this same prophecy, Haggai assured the people that God’s own spirit had come to dwell in their midst (Haggai 2:5)[xxix]. Under the influence of this spirit the leaders of the Jewish people were able to seal the canon of scripture. It was through this spirit that God influenced our leaders to establish a network of rabbinical institutions which preserved the nation’s loyalty to God throughout the darkness of the exile. The divine inspiration bestowed through this spirit enabled our leaders to formulate the Mishnah and Talmud, the books that would unite all of Israel throughout the realms of time and space in their ongoing discussion of God’s Law.

In the historical context of the SecondTemple, the spirit that dwelt amongst our people encouraged the brave resistance to the Greek persecution. The people were inspired to take on the might of the Syrian-Greek Empire in order to maintain their loyalty to God and His holy Law. The victory that was achieved against overwhelming odds and the miracle of the Menorah associated with that victory, still testifies to the world that God was with the Jewish people (Zechariah 9:13 – 16).

The glory that was manifest in the SecondTemple was not more spectacular than the glory that was manifest in the FirstTemple. But it went further in achieving its purpose, and in that sense it was greater than the glory manifested in the FirstTemple. That still and silent spirit that came to dwell in the Second temple is still manifest amongst us, and will remain with us forever – just as God has promised (Isaiah 59:21, Haggai 2:5, Zechariah 4:6).

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Audio – Lamps and Lights

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Relationship vs. Theology – excerpt from Covenant Nation

Relationship versus Theology
In his description of the sense of Jewish self-identity that preceded Christianity, Boyarin has forgotten a key element in that sense of self-identity. The Jewish people did not just see themselves merely as a community; they saw themselves as a community that stands in a special relationship with God. Obviously, some Jews took this relationship more seriously than did others, but being a Jew meant being tied up with God. This central feature of Jewish self-identity was shared by every man woman and child who saw themselves as part of the larger Jewish community.

A prerequisite for sharing a relationship with somebody is an ability to identify that somebody. If it is a group of people that share a relationship with somebody, as in the situation of Israel sharing a collective relationship with God, then the nation will need to be able to identify God on a national level. This would require a uniform definition of God that is shared by the nation. This definition would have to be clear and simple. If the Jewish people are going to relate to God as a nation, each Jew needs to be confident that whichever group of Jews he or she stands with, they worship the same God. It is not enough that they call God by the same name because you don’t have a relationship with a name and you don’t worship a name. We need to find the common Jewish understanding of the One that they were having a relationship with.

This understanding of God shared by the Jewish people will not be a theological formula or creed, because you don’t have a relationship with a mathematical equation. It needs to be something concrete that everyone could relate to on the level of the heart.

So what was it? How did the Jewish people perceive God in the pre-Christian world? How did the Jewish people understand the One that they were tied to in covenantal relationship?

If we search the Jewish Bible for an answer to this question, we will not find a creed or a mathematical formula. The Bible opens with the words: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”. The God of Israel is above and beyond heaven and earth and all that exists in heaven and earth are His creations. The Jewish concept of God shapes the Jew’s view, not only of God Himself, but also of all existence. God is the One Creator and every detail of existence is viewed as His subject. The One that the Jewish people related to was the One that is outside of the confines of heaven and earth and the Jew saw heaven and earth and of all their inhabitants as subjects of this One God. The Jew stood apart from all of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel because they all found themselves in a relationship with some feature of finite existence; be it the sun, the moon, or any other force of nature. The Jew saw all of these as fellow subjects of the One who created them all.

This is the concept of God that is shared by all Jews from the time of the exodus onward. It is this Being who is identified by the fact that He is outside of existence as we know it that Israel shares her covenantal relationship with.

Yes, there were many teachings floating around, and there still are many teachings floating around that address questions such as; how does an infinite God appear to the prophets? How does an infinite God interact with a finite world? But whatever answers are given to these questions, they do not affect the basic relationship with God. God always remains outside of the existence that we see and comprehend.

Pointing to any inhabitant of heaven and earth, be it a human, an angel, a star or an animal and encouraging a devotional relationship with that entity is the most serious violation of Israel’s relationship with the God who is above and beyond heaven and earth.

This then was the constant. When a Jew joined his or her fellow Jews in worship, they may not have been confident that their fellow Jews subscribed to the same teachings that explain how God appeared to the prophets. But of this they were sure; that their fellow Jews were NOT worshiping an inhabitant of heaven or earth but that their hearts were directed to the One who stands outside of the confines of heaven and earth.

When the Church encouraged devotion to Jesus as a deity (regardless of when this devotion surfaced in Church history), the Church was encouraging a different relationship than the relationship of Israel with her God. The Church was pointing to an inhabitant of this earth and demanding that human hearts direct their devotion towards that entity. The Churchmen may have used the Jewish teachings that explain God’s interaction with this world to justify the relationship that they were encouraging, but they were encouraging a different relationship. The fact that the Logos theology of the Church is similar to some of the Jewish teachings on God does not make Christianity Jewish. The teachings may be similar, but the relationships that they are encouraging are diametrically opposed to each other. In Judaism these teachings are used to explain a relationship with an entity that stands outside of the confines of nature, while in Christianity these same teachings are being used to justify a relationship with an entity that is inside the confines of nature.

Whenever it was that the Church introduced the idea that the hearts of human-kind ought to relate to Jesus as their supreme master they had crossed the line and moved out of the range of Jewish self-identity – according to every understanding of Jewish self-identity that ever existed.

How did this happen? How did the Jewish followers of Jesus come to adopt a belief that is the antithesis of the self-identity of the Jew?

There are several possible answers to this question; it is possible that the Jewish followers of Jesus were not the ones who introduced this non-Jewish belief into the Christian community but that this belief was a later, Gentile, development. It is possible that the Jewish followers of Jesus were so taken in by their devotion to Jesus that they elevated him to the status of divine without consciously realizing that they had violated the core of their standing as Jews before God.

Many theories can be proposed to explain the phenomena of Christianity’s move towards the deification of Jesus. But the one theory that is impossible is that the original Jewish belief system allowed for the deification of a human. Such a theory violates every understanding of Jewish self-identity that the historical record has bequeathed to us. Such a theory takes the covenant that stands at the heart of the Jewish Bible and renders it meaningless.

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Lamp and Lights – Proverbs 6:23

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Lamp and Lights – Proverbs 6:23


Some see the observance of the commandments as drudgery. They see in the performance of the commandments a stifling of the creative side of man, of his independence and of man’s appreciation for adventure.

Others see dedication to the commandments as a mindless and heartless approach to life. They see the fulfillment of the commandments as legalistic and narrow-minded.

Yet others view the observance of the commandments as an activity that induces self-righteousness and haughtiness. These people see the observance of the commandments as something that can potentially lead people away from the light and grace of God.

King Solomon was inspired to see man’s obedience to God’s commandment in a different light.

Solomon saw God’s perfect Law as light and each of the commandments as another lamp diffusing that light. Each and every commandment is God’s personal directive to every individual who…

View original 265 more words

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Where Heaven Meets Earth

Where Heaven Meets Earth

There is no paragraph break in the Torah scroll between Genesis 28:10 and Genesis 32:3. These chapters in Scripture form one lengthy paragraph in the Torah. Interestingly, the phrase “angels of God” only appear twice in all of Scripture; once at the beginning of this paragraph and once at the end (28:12; 32:2). Furthermore, the Hebrew verb “paga” (encountered) appear at the beginning and at the end of this segment of Scripture. There is a lesson to be learned from this literary technique that ties together the opening and the close of this unusually lengthy paragraph.

In the opening of this paragraph Jacob encounters “the place.” He comes across a particular place where he envisions angels of God going ascending to heaven and descending from heaven to earth. Jacob is overawed and he exclaims “this is the gate of heaven.”

After the encounter with “the place” Jacob journeys to the land of Aram. Jacob marries and establishes a family. Throughout his 20 year sojourn, he labored for a dishonest employer yet Jacob didn’t stray from the standard of truth and honesty (Genesis 31:37-41).

After 20 years Jacob leaves the land of Aram and heads back to the land of Canaan. Here the angels of God find a household that is established on the foundations of truth and Godliness. At this point it is not Jacob who encounters the angels. The angels encounter Jacob and his household. It is the turn of the angels to be overawed. When the angels seek God they now need to come to the household that is loyal to God and to His truth. For this is where heaven meets earth.

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Sinai – Excerpt from Supplement to Contra Brown

V. 62. Objection 6.12

Brown presents one of the fundamental Jewish Objections to Christianity: “Judaism is a unique religion. Of all the religions of the world, only Judaism began with a public revelation witnesses by the entire nation. No one and nothing can alter that fact or change the substance of that revelation.”


Brown responds on behalf of Christianity with three arguments: “1) Followers of Jesus also accept the revelation of God at Sinai, recognizing it as the foundation of everything else that follows…” Further on (Page 236) Brown elaborates: “…the revelation at Sinai is NOT the exclusive property of traditional Judaism. Rather, it is the heritage of all who embrace the Tanakh, and that includes hundreds of millions of Christians as well.”


Brown’s second argument: “2) In and of itself, the revelation of Sinai argues against a binding oral tradition – which is the foundation of traditional Judaism – rather than for it.”


Brown presents his third argument: “3) God did not stop speaking at Sinai, and therefore I embrace the words of the prophets and the words of the Messiah, which build on the foundation of Sinai. I should also point out that many liberal Jewish scholars do not even believe that this revelation at Sinai ever occurred…”


Before refuting Brown’s arguments, a question is begging to be asked. Why bring up the liberal scholars? What is the point of reminding his audience that there are people who do not believe in the Sinai revelation? Could there be any other motivation other than to minimize the power of Sinai in the eyes of his audience? If this conclusion is correct (and I do not insist that it is, it simply the only logical answer I can see for my question) than another question presents itself. Why? Why is it important for someone – who claims to believe in Sinai, and who claims a share in the heritage of Sinai – to attempt to minimize the impact of Sinai? The fact that Brown found the need to include the opinion of these liberal scholars in his response to the Jewish argument based on Sinai, leaves me with a strong impression, that Sinai does not sit all that well with Brown. For all of his declarations to the effect that he affirms the revelation of Sinai, something is seriously wrong.


Since Sinai is so foundational to Judaism, and since the Scriptures put Sinai and the exodus at the very center of the faith-structure of Scripture, I will beg the reader’s indulgence, and I will take the time to elaborate.


Before I begin, I will quote some Scripture.


“When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to the Lord your God, and hearken to His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you nor destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them. For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and from on end of the heaven to the other end of the heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking to them from the midst of the fire as you have, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from the midst of a nation, with challenges, with signs, and with wonders, and with war, and with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with greatly awesome deeds, such as everything that the Lord your God, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? You have been shown in order to know that the Lord, He is the God, there is none beside Him. From heaven He caused you to hear His voice in order to teach you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire.” (Deuteronomy 4:30-36).


The point of this passage is: That the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have heard God’s voice from the midst of the fire, and the fact that Israel is the only nation that claims to have experienced anything like the exodus from Egypt, is supposed to encourage the Jew at the end of time that God will not forget the covenant that He made with our forefathers.


Why? How do the unique claims of Judaism reassure us that God’s covenant with us still stands? What is the covenant that we share with God?


The thrust of the covenant that Israel shares with God is that we are called to be His nation and He declares Himself to be our God (Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 29:12, 1Chronicles 17:22). This means that God tied up His own identity with that of Israel. The covenant that Israel shares with God denotes that God will be called: “The God of Israel”, and that Israel will be called: “The people of God”. In other words; a covenant is like a marriage. No longer can we look at the two parties of the covenant as separate entities; the destiny of these two parties is bound up with one another and the very identity of these two parties is bound up with one another. The exodus and Sinai sealed the connection between God and Israel. From that point onward, Israel is God’s bride, and God is Israel’s husband and lover.


Israel’s intimacy with God that was displayed by the exodus and the familiarity with God that Israel gained through the Sinai revelation remains unmatched by any other national entity.


In these verses in Deuteronomy, God is reassuring Israel that no nation will ever match Israel’s claim of being married to God.


The perception of God that Israel acquired at the Sinai revelation is not a peripheral aspect of our covenant with God. Neither is this perception something that fades away with the passage of time. God points to this knowledge of God that we acquired at Sinai as the very heart of our relationship with Him, and God speaks to the last generation and points to this knowledge as a unique possession that sets us apart from every other national entity. This knowledge was not acquired through the handing over of a book, nor was it accomplished through the recital of words. God points to a fiery encounter, collectively experienced as the means through which He imparted this knowledge to us (Deuteronomy 4:35). God also tells us how it is that this knowledge will be preserved throughout the generations. Again, it is not through the recital of words or through the reading of a book; but through the channel of love and trust that exists between children and their parents (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5).

Sinai and exodus were fiery experiences that seared the perception of God into the minds and the hearts of the people who experienced it. They were commanded by God to keep this awareness and intimacy with God alive and to pass it on to their children. Each generation of Jews is enjoined by God to absorb the testimony of exodus and Sinai from their parents, to come to know and love the God of their ancestors and to stand together with their parents in a covenantal relationship with God (Deuteronomy 29:13). The power, the reality and the truth of God embodied in the testimony of exodus and Sinai is so weighty that the last generation of Jews can put their full trust in the God of Sinai on the basis of this testimony (Psalm 78:7). A trust in God that will encourage them to give their lives for Him (Psalm 44:17-23). A trust in God and a love for Him that will carry them through the darkest times (Isaiah 26:13, Micha 7:7,8). A trust and a yearning for God so that when God arises to judge the earth, the children of the exodus and Sinai will cry out with joy: “Behold! This is our God! The God that we hoped for! (Isaiah 25:9). And the connection between God and Israel that was forged at exodus and Sinai runs so deep and is so steadfast, that when God alone is exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17), His bride, Israel, will be vindicated to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 49:23, 62:2. Micha 7:10, Psalm 98:2,3).


Now here we have Brown, declaring that hundreds of millions of Christians share in the heritage of Sinai! Brown seems to be under the impression that Sinai is completely restricted to a book, it has nothing to do with living people, so that according to Brown, anyone who grabs hold of the book can claim a share in the inheritance of Sinai.


Brown has missed the point of Sinai, which is actually the central point of the entire Scripture. Its not about a book, it is about a covenant between two living parties; between the living God, and between His bride, Israel. Just because you are holding a copy of a description of the wedding ceremony doesn’t make you the bride. And if you make it your life’s mission to declare to one and all that the witnesses that God commissioned at Sinai are liars, then how can you turn around and claim the heritage of Sinai for yourself? (Just to remind the readers; in Volume 2, Brown contended that Israel’s rejection of the trinity is not based on what they learned at Sinai, as Israel claims, but is rather: “a gut-level negative reaction to anything Christian” (Page 7).)


Brown’s argument that: “the Sinai revelation does not give a hint of the Oral law. Not a hint!” – is equally fallacious. The whole point of the exodus and Sinai is that words alone, neither written or spoken can effectively communicate a perception of God; it can only be done through a living experience. The whole point of exodus and Sinai is that through a series of living experiences, God forged a nation for Himself that will walk through the corridors of history with His truth in their hearts (Isaiah 51:7) – a living nation, not a series of books.


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Childishly Easy – An Open Response to Charles

Childishly Easy – An Open Response to Charles

This article is in response to Charles Soper’s comments:


You define the “watershed” between us as a debate about God’s nature. Your assessment has no basis in reality. At no point in the Bible is idolatry defined as an incorrect belief about God’s nature. Idolatry is not about beliefs, it is about worship.

The Bible is very clear when it comes to worship. The Bible reports that God did not rely on a book to teach His people who it is that they ought to worship. The Bible also reports that God did not rely on a prophet to teach His people who it is that they ought to worship. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God did not rely on these two mediums (the book and the prophet) to teach His people who it is that they ought not to worship.

The Bible reports that God imparted this lesson to Israel Himself. The Bible also reports that God appointed the living people of Israel to pass on this central message to the future generations of His covenant nation.

The teaching that God imparted to our ancestors, as our ancestors preserved that teaching and as the Bible affirms, does not allow us to direct our hearts toward one who walked God’s earth and breathed His air. The teaching that God imparted to us makes no exceptions. No “belief” can redefine an act of idolatry.

It is that simple.

P.S. – I have taken the trouble to articulate my beliefs. Please read what I have written on this subject in order to learn what I believe. Do not quote books to which I attribute no authority (such as Jewish Encyclopedia) assuming that they describe my beliefs.

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